Pete Rose once said he’d walk through hell in a gasoline suit just to play baseball.
TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle basically asked his team: “What about you?”
He showed his team some highlights of Charlie Hustle’s best plays, and the Horned Frogs took it from there in a 13-4 victory against Texas A&M to open a best-of-three Super Regional series Saturday in front of a record crowd at Lupton Stadium.
“I think we all kind of took something from that and played a little bit extra hard,” third baseman Derek Odell said after going 4 for 5 and stealing two bases. “He just hustles a ridiculous amount. That’s something that our program stands for.”
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Charlie Hustle might have agreed — had he been one of the Lupton-record 7,199 fans watching on a hot, sunny day in Fort Worth. The Frogs went first-to-third three times on singles, took an extra base via error on a double, took an extra base via error on a steal, doubled twice, tripled twice and stole three bases, all while going an almost unheard of 8 for 9 with a runner on third base and fewer than two outs.
Combined with 18 hits and four shutout innings from reliever Trey Teakell, it overwhelmed the Aggies (49-13) and put TCU in position to win the series. The teams meet at 1:15 p.m. Sunday, and a win sends the Frogs (48-12) to the College World Series. Game 3, if necessary, would be Monday.
“One of the things that we do is we’re just super aggressive on the base paths,” said first baseman Jeremie Fagnan, who doubled in his first two at-bats and drove in two runs.
On his first double, he took third base on an outfield error and scored the game’s first run on a single by Connor Wanhanen.
“If we’re going to err, we’re going to err on the aggressive side,” he said. “It’s just how TCU baseball plays.”
Like Pete Rose?
Um, sure. The 21-year-old Fagnan kind of sort of knew that name.
“I’m from Canada,” he said with a grin. “We get the hockey news. We didn’t get that much baseball.”
But, yes, just like Pete Rose.
“He’s a player that you want to be,” Fagnan said. “Especially the way I play. I like to steal bases, get a little dirty.”
Schlossnagle likes for his team to play that way, too. He knows the Frogs don’t have a ton of power, but they are fast and athletic, and he encourages the mentality of pressuring the defense.
And with the team coming off a mentally draining regional tournament, he was perhaps looking for a way to infuse extra energy for the Super Regional opener.
“I really wanted these guys to enjoy this,” he said. “We always put something on the practice plan, and yesterday’s was a picture of Pete Rose diving into third base and his quote, ‘I’d walk through hell in a gasoline suit just to play baseball.’ I just wanted our guys to have that attitude.”
A simple YouTube search gave Schlossnagle a video, and the video did the rest.
“I think most of them knew who he was,” Schlossnagle said with a smile. “If they didn’t, they do now.”
The message was simple: “If we go down, let’s go down like this,” Schlossnagle said. “But I bet you if we play hard, at some point, it’s going to go in our favor.”
There was little doubt it did work in the Frogs’ favor. Despite getting their leadoff hitter on base only once, they scored in all but two innings. They worked A&M starter Grayson Long for 71 pitches through three innings, they scored early and in bunches, and they pressured the outfielders, infielders and catcher.
“It puts a little bit of pressure on us,” Aggies right fielder Jonathan Moroney said of the aggressiveness. “We have to make better throws. All in all, whenever they get on the bases, they’re smart. They know when to go and they know when not to go.”
Every hitter in the lineup had a hit for TCU. Eight scored a run. Seven had an RBI.
It more than made up for a flat outing from starter Tyler Alexander, who gave up four runs on nine hits and struck out only one in four innings. But he left with the Frogs leading 5-4, and Teakell and the bullpen took it from there.
“Definitely had some adrenaline in this kind of atmosphere, the biggest crowd TCU has ever seen,” Teakell said. “But we talked about it before the game. There’s two things that are going to happen in the game — that’s adversity and adrenaline — and we have to control both of them.
“We talked about taking deep breaths, trusting your routine, so I kind of did that.”
The hitters remembered to breathe, too.
“I breathed constantly,” Fagnan said.
And they had fun — like Schlossnagle told them to. Like Pete Rose would have told them to.
In the end, Schlossnagle’s video did what he wanted it to.
“It’s always good to be inspired,” Odell said. “I think we just stepped that up and took it to another level today.”
He will probably not have to remind anyone to bring their gasoline suits Sunday.
Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7760
Fort Worth Super Regional
TCU (48-12) vs. A&M (49-13)
at Lupton Stadium
Game 1: TCU 13, Texas A&M 4
Game 2: TCU vs. Texas A&M, 1:15 p.m. Sunday, ESPN
Game 3: TBD Monday, if necessary